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Gay novelist Damian Barr steps down from board of England’s biggest arts festival

Lily Wakefield July 25, 2020
Damian Barr

Damian Barr raised concern about the language used by Baroness Nicholson online. (David Levenson/Getty)

Gay novelist Damian Barr has stepped down from his position on the board of Brighton Fringe Festival.

The Times claimed that Brighton Fringe Festival, England’s largest arts festival, chose to cut ties with the author following resurfaced tweets using anti-trans language.

But a statement from Brighton Fringe Festival confirms that the author has actually stepped down of his own accord alongside five other board members to help “manage a new funding arrangement” in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Brighton Fringe Ltd has been severely impacted by the cancellation of public events owing to the coronavirus pandemic, as have so many other arts organisations,” the statement read.

“The Pebble Trust, its long-term principle funder, agreed in May 2020 to step in to provide financial and practical support through this difficult time.

“On 8 June 2020, the Brighton Fringe Board met and agreed an extensive support package from the Pebble Trust, which includes short term funding along with longer term annual commitments.

“In order to more expediently administer and manage the new funding arrangement Louise Rogers, Douglas Stewart, Allan Spencer, Damian Barr, Steve Bustin and James Dempster stepped down from the board at the 8 June meeting to allow the Pebble Trust to invite new directors to join the board.

“Brighton Fringe Ltd would like to thank these departing directors for their immense contributions over the years.”

The statement can be read in full on the Brighton Fringe Festival website.

Damian Barr used anti-trans slurs up until 2013.

When Baroness Nicholson launched a shocking attack on same-sex marriage, Barr was one of the authors calling for her to be removed from her honorary position the the Booker Foundation.

Barr openly challenged the Booker Foundation on Twitter, saying: “As a gay writer I feel very concerned that a person who is actively and publicly propagating homophobic views holds a position of such power and prestige in your rightly esteemed organisation.”

But this month the gay novelist, who is also a Stonewall schools ambassador, was accused of hypocrisy after Twitter users uncovered a series of anti-trans comments online.

In a series of tweets, Barr referred to transgender woman as “trannies”, mocked a failed suicide attempt and made other anti-trans comments.

It appears that the gay author frequently used transphobic language, including referring to a “nice tranny charity” and writing “lady-man truckers unite”, up until 2013.

In March, 2013, he tweeted that there was a “mad tranny going through my recycling bin”, but later that year he was advised that the word is highly offensive.

Earlier this month, Barr apologised for the transphobic slur, but told The Times that he had used the slur “flippantly, not maliciously”.

“It is an unkind and hurtful word I’m embarrassed to have used,” he said. “I apologised then. I remain sorry today. I listened and changed: I hope my solidarity and actions since speak louder than that word then.”

A previous version of this article regrettably reported that Damian Barr was let go from his position on the board at Brighton Fringe Festival. PinkNews is happy to correct this and apologise to Damian Barr for any inconvenience caused.

More: anti-trans tweets, baroness nicholson, Brighton Fringe Festival, Damian Barr

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